Archive for the ‘Wisconsin’ tag
But now, after the recent passage of a bill that would allow for the construction of what could be the world’s largest open-pit iron ore mine, Wisconsin’s admirable history of environmental stewardship is under attack.
The mine, to be built by Gogebic Taconite (GTac), owned by the coal magnate Chris Cline, would be in the Penokee Hills, in the state’s far north — part of a vast, water-rich ecosystem that President John F. Kennedy described in 1963, in a speech he delivered in the area, as “a central and significant portion of the freshwater assets of this country.”
The $1.5 billion mine would initially be close to four miles long, up to a half-mile wide and nearly 1,000 feet deep, but it could be extended as long as 21 miles. In its footprint lie the headwaters of the Bad River, which flows into Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world and by far the cleanest of the Great Lakes. Six miles downstream from the site is the reservation of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, whose livelihood is threatened by the mine.
To facilitate the construction of the mine and the company’s promise of 700 long-term jobs, Gov. Scott Walker signed legislation last year granting GTac astonishing latitude. The new law allows the company to fill in pristine streams and ponds with mine waste. It eliminates a public hearing that had been mandated before the issuing of a permit, which required the company to testify, under oath, that the project had complied with all environmental standards. It allows GTac to pay taxes solely on profit, not on the amount of ore removed, raising the possibility that the communities affected by the mine’s impact on the area’s roads and schools would receive only token compensation.
(click here to continue reading The Fight for Wisconsin’s Soul – NYTimes.com.)
and, as always, follow the money:
According to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a campaign-finance watchdog, GTac executives and other mine supporters have donated a total of $15 million to Governor Walker and Republican legislators, outspending the mine’s opponents by more than 600 to 1.
If Governor Scott Walker does in fact run for President, this issue will not play well in the minds of most. Even many Republicans don’t want to turn our great country into a wasteland worse than Mordor. It’s hard to go hunting or fishing knee deep in mining slag and asbestos…
Special interests that back loosening mining regulations for a Florida company that wants to dig an open pit iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin have contributed $15.6 million to the Republican-controlled legislature and GOP Governor Scott Walker who are likely to approve mining permit changes in the coming months.
The Democracy Campaign review also found the campaign contributions made by mining deregulation interests swamped those of mining deregulation opponents – environmental groups – by a ratio of $610 to $1. Environmental groups which oppose the Republican mining proposal introduced in mid-January contributed only $25,544 to legislators between 2010 and June 2012 and to the governor between 2010 and April 23, 2012.
Support for a nearly identical GOP proposal last session to reduce groundwater, wetland, waste rock disposal and other environment laws for iron ore mining and impose deadlines on the state to review mine proposals so companies can get permits faster was led by manufacturing, construction, business, banking, transportation and four other special interests, according to state lobbying records.
This array of powerful special interests support mining deregulation because they will benefit from the short- and long-term construction and operation of Gogebic Taconite’s proposed mine in Ashland and Iron counties. Gogebic Taconite is a Wisconsin-based subsidiary of the Cline Group which controls large coal mining operations in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Illinois and Ohio.
Walker, who has campaigned around the state to gin up support for changing rules to attract mining projects, received $11.34 million from 2010 through April 23, 2012 from interests that support mining deregulation (Table 1) including $67,068 from the prospective mine’s owner, Christopher Cline, his employees and other mining industry executives. During the same period, Walker received only $650 from environmental groups.
(click here to continue reading Mine Backers Drill With Big Cash To Ease Regulations | Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.)
According to Madison City Attorney, Mike May, Wednesday night’s quick vote to strip collective bargaining from public employees in Wisconsin is probably illegal.
Madison Mayor David Cieslewicz blogs:
To quote Mike’s email to alders and I this morning:
“The Office of the City Attorney (in compliance with State law) insists on 24 hours notice for any meeting, or adding any matter to an agenda, unless there is no way that 24 hours notice could have been given. Mere convenience or inadvertence is insufficient to meet the less than 24-hour notice. This is necessary to be in compliance with the Open Meetings Law. It is an essential element of government in Wisconsin.
“Today’s action does not meet that test. It does not comply with Wisconsin Law.
“The action taken today will be struck down if challenged in court.
“Sec. 19.84(3), Stats.:
“‘Public notice of every meeting of a governmental body shall be given at least 24 hours prior to the commencement of such meeting, unless for good cause such notice is impossible or impractical, in which case shorter notice may be given, but in no case may the notice be provided less than 2 hours in advance of the meeting.’
“Sec. 19.97(3), Stats.:
“‘Any action taken at a meeting of a governmental body in violation of this subchapter is voidable …’
“This aggression will not stand. If challenged in court, the action today would likely be voided as illegal.”
(click here to continue reading Mayor Dave’s Blog – Mayor’s Office – City of Madison, Wisconsin.)
Wisconsin democracy in action! Politicians are elected to serve the interests of their constituents, if politicians instead brazenly serve the interest of their corporate masters, then they should suffer the consequences.
So how’s the drive to recall Wisconsin GOP state senators going? If these new numbers the Wisconsin Democratic Party shares with me are accurate, it’s already exceeding expectations in a big way.
Graeme Zielinski, a spokesman for the party, tells me that activists working on the recall push already collected over the weekend 15 percent of the total necessary signatures needed to force recalls in all eight of the GOP districts Dems are targeting. He says that the party — which is helping to coordinate and keeping track of outside efforts to gather signatures — set itself a goal of 10,000 signatures for the weekend, and has already exceeded it by 35 percent.
Zielinski also claims that recall forces over the weekend put more than 2,000 volunteers on the street to collect signatures. He also says volunteers have collected 26 percent of the signatures required in one district, and 20 percent in another, though he wouldn’t say which ones, because Dems want GOP senators to fret that they are the ones in question.
If these numbers are close to accurate, they are a surprising sign of the power of the grassroots energy uncorked by Scott Walker’s union-busting proposals. Under Wisconsin law, a recall requires a number of signatures totaling 25 percent of the number that voted in the last gubernatorial election.
…Also: As Ben Smith pointed out yesterday, the mechanics of recall drives favor unions, because of their organizing ability, and because many Republicans in Wisconsin occupy swing districts. Fourteen out of 19 GOP state senators preside over districts carried in 2008 by Obama.
(click here to continue reading The Plum Line – Drive to recall Wisconsin GOP senators gaining steam, Dems say.)
Wisconsin requires petitioners to gather enough signatures to equal 25% of the votes cast in the most recent race for governor in the district of the targeted legislator, a daunting number. That barrier is even higher in some states – it’s 40% in Kansas – and lower in others – 12% in California for governor, 20% for state legislators.
Wisconsin law also dictates that a year must pass after the election of the targeted official before he or she can be recalled. In some states, that period is only 90 days.
That means that in the Wisconsin Senate, only the 16 members elected in 2008 are eligible to be recalled this year.
Recall drives have now been officially launched against every one, some by more than one committee, Kevin Kennedy, the state’s top election official, said Sunday. The other 17, elected in 2010, could be targeted for recall next year, as could the governor. It would take more than 540,000 valid signatures to force a recall election against Walker in 2011.
The other hurdle in Wisconsin for recall organizers is that they have only 60 days once they formally organize to gather the needed signatures – in some states that period is much longer. The signatures needed for the recall drives now under way range from 11,817 in Milwaukee Democrat Spencer Coggs’ district to 20,973 in the district of New Berlin Republican Mary Lazich.
In interviews last week, some experts said Wisconsin’s short window for petitions and the large number of signatures required means that recall efforts will need significant funding and paid canvassers.
On the other hand, social media offers today’s activists a tool that didn’t exist 10 or 20 years ago to rapidly mobilize and coordinate grass-roots political activity.
“I think this may actually become more common because of social media,” Moncrief said.
Under the timetables in state law, the 60-day petition period that’s under way in 16 Senate districts is followed by a 31-day period where signatures are challenged, defended and reviewed. That period can be extended by a court.
If enough signatures are declared valid, an election is scheduled for six weeks later. If more than one challenger in the same party files papers, then that election serves as the party primary, followed four weeks later by a general election.
(click here to continue reading Recall drives could make history – JSOnline.)
You mean Governor Wanker is a liar? Who would have guessed? Besides anyone with an IQ over 781
Pulitzer Prize winning tax reporter, David Cay Johnston, has written a brilliant piece for tax.com exposing the truth about who really pays for the pension and benefits for public employees in Wisconsin.
Gov. Scott Walker says he wants state workers covered by collective bargaining agreements to “contribute more” to their pension and health insurance plans. Accepting Gov. Walker’ s assertions as fact, and failing to check, creates the impression that somehow the workers are getting something extra, a gift from taxpayers. They are not. Out of every dollar that funds Wisconsin’ s pension and health insurance plans for state workers, 100 cents comes from the state workers.
How can this be possible?
Simple. The pension plan is the direct result of deferred compensation- money that employees would have been paid as cash salary but choose, instead, to have placed in the state operated pension fund where the money can be professionally invested (at a lower cost of management) for the future.
(click here to continue reading The Wisconsin Lie Exposed – Taxpayers Actually Contribute Nothing To Public Employee Pensions – Rick Ungar – The Policy Page – Forbes.)
If the Wisconsin governor and state legislature were to be honest, they would correctly frame this issue. They are not, in fact, asking state employees to make a larger contribution to their pension and benefits programs as that would not be possible- the employees are already paying 100% of the contributions.
What they are actually asking is that the employees take a pay cut.
That may or may not be an appropriate request depending on your point of view – but the argument that the taxpayers are providing state workers with some gift is as false as the argument that state workers are paid better than employees with comparable education and skills in private industry.
Maybe state workers need to take pay cut along with so many of their fellow Americans. But let’s, at the least, recognize this sacrifice for what it is rather than pretending they’ve been getting away with some sweet deal that now must be brought to an end.
- which excludes most television news pundits, and most politicians [↩]
One of these years, I’ll get to Naomi Klein’s book in my stack of books-to-read. Paul Krugman explains why I should move it nearer to the top, in the context of Governor Wanker’s assault on Wisconsin.
The story of the privatization-obsessed Coalition Provisional Authority was the centerpiece of Naomi Klein’s best-selling book “The Shock Doctrine,” which argued that it was part of a broader pattern. From Chile in the 1970s onward, she suggested, right-wing ideologues have exploited crises to push through an agenda that has nothing to do with resolving those crises, and everything to do with imposing their vision of a harsher, more unequal, less democratic society.
Which brings us to Wisconsin 2011, where the shock doctrine is on full display.
In recent weeks, Madison has been the scene of large demonstrations against the governor’s budget bill, which would deny collective-bargaining rights to public-sector workers. Gov. Scott Walker claims that he needs to pass his bill to deal with the state’s fiscal problems. But his attack on unions has nothing to do with the budget. In fact, those unions have already indicated their willingness to make substantial financial concessions — an offer the governor has rejected.
What’s happening in Wisconsin is, instead, a power grab — an attempt to exploit the fiscal crisis to destroy the last major counterweight to the political power of corporations and the wealthy. And the power grab goes beyond union-busting. The bill in question is 144 pages long, and there are some extraordinary things hidden deep inside.
(click here to continue reading Shock Doctrine, U.S.A. – NYTimes.com.)
including the sale of public utilities with no-bid contracts, as the Governor sees fit
What’s that about? The state of Wisconsin owns a number of plants supplying heating, cooling, and electricity to state-run facilities (like the University of Wisconsin). The language in the budget bill would, in effect, let the governor privatize any or all of these facilities at whim. Not only that, he could sell them, without taking bids, to anyone he chooses. And note that any such sale would, by definition, be “considered to be in the public interest.”
If this sounds to you like a perfect setup for cronyism and profiteering — remember those missing billions in Iraq? — you’re not alone. Indeed, there are enough suspicious minds out there that Koch Industries, owned by the billionaire brothers who are playing such a large role in Mr. Walker’s anti-union push, felt compelled to issue a denial that it’s interested in purchasing any of those power plants. Are you reassured?
Tourism and culinary adventurism aren’t the only reasons to come to Illinois, having to flee reactionary Rethuglicans in your home state is a good excuse too.
As battles over limits to public-sector unions and collective-bargaining rights erupted in capitals in Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio, Illinois suddenly found itself as the refuge of choice for outnumbered Democrats fleeing their states to block the passage of such bills. By Wednesday evening, most of Indiana’s 40 Democratic state representatives were living in rooms (“plain but all we need,” in the words of one) at the Comfort Suites in Urbana, Ill., about 100 miles west of the state Capitol in Indianapolis. Wisconsin’s Senate Democrats were preparing to mark their first full week, on Thursday, somewhere in northern Illinois.
Republican leaders left behind in the various Capitols fumed, but Gov. Patrick J. Quinn of Illinois seemed to delight in the new arrivals, some of whom said Mr. Quinn, a Democrat, had telephoned them to offer his personal welcome. “We believe in hospitality and tourism and being friendly,” Mr. Quinn said on Wednesday, quickly adding, “I also believe in unions.”
The main reason Illinois was suddenly a magnet for vanishing lawmakers was a matter of geography. From both Wisconsin and Indiana, getting over the Illinois line before state law enforcement authorities might be able to find them and haul them back to their stately chambers was a matter of a few hours by car. Still, the state seemed a fitting getaway. As Republicans seized control in a number of Midwestern capitals in November, Illinois was one of the few where Democrats held on to theirs.
“It seems like very friendly territory,” said State Representative Win Moses, 68, one of the Indiana Democrats
(click here to continue reading Life on the Run for Democrats in Union Fights – NYTimes.com.)
I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night
Alive as you or me.
Paul Robeson sings, “Joe Hill”
Pete Seeger sings, “Which Side Are You On?”
bonus, Billy Bragg, circa 1985, singing, “Which Side Are You On?”
I’ll never get a job writing headlines, but you get the idea, right?
John Nichols on a more serious note:
Those questions point to a more profound question: Has Walker violated Wisconsin’s strictest-in-the-nation ethics rules, which require elected officials to “maintain the faith and confidence of the people of the state” when it comes to their actions?
Here’s the critical exchange:
Koch caller: “Well, I tell you what, Scott: once you crush these bastards I’ll fly you out to Cali and really show you a good time.”
Governor Walker: “All right, that would be outstanding. Thanks for all the support in helping us move the cause forward…. “
Koch caller: “Absolutely. And, you know, we have a little bit of a vested interest as well. ”
“Well,” replies Walker, “that’s just it.”
When someone who Scott Walker thought was a major donor to national groups that aided Walker’s 2010 gubernatorial run – as that gave the Walker campaign $43,000 directly, via Koch Industries’ KochPAC – said he had a “vested interest” in a budget plan being pushed by the governor, Walker replied” “Well, that’s just it.”
The conversation is so stunning in its brazenness that the Center for Media and Democracy, which had already filed a freedom-of-information requests for records of contacts between the governor and his aides and representatives of Koch industries, is stepping up those demands.
“One request is for the phone logs and the other is for their emails. We are looking for any contacts between Scott Walker and his staff and anyone with Koch Industries or the Kochs (brothers David and Charles),” says Lisa Graves, a former deputy Assistant Attorney General of the United States who now heads the Madison-based center. “We are interested as well in calls to and from the group Americans for Prosperity, with which Mr. Koch is closely tied.”
Says Graves: “We are interested in a number of things, especially contacts between the financial interests that helped elect Governor Walker and the governor and his staff. We are interested in whether the governor and his staff have maintained faith with the ethics requirements and responsibilities associated with their positions.”
(click here to continue reading Taped Conversation Reveals Wisconsin Governor’s Deal with David Koch | The Nation.)
And more from Lisa Graves:
The Return on Investment?
Some things are known, though. Koch money helped get Scott Walker the governor’s seat in Wisconsin. And now a major Koch-related group is spearheading the defense of Walker’s radical plan to kill public employees’ right to organize in Wisconsin. The question is whether an actual majority of Wisconsin citizens want two of the richest men in the world, who do not live here — and who, as Lee Fang has pointed out, have eliminated jobs in this state — to be playing such an influential role in the rights of working people here.
The Kochs assert that they do not “direct” the activities of Americans for Prosperity or the Tea Party. No, they just fuel them with their riches from the oil business they inherited from their daddy.
And they did not vote for Scott Walker in the traditional sense in a democracy. Rather, as the Republican Governors Association spells out, they “invested” in him.
What is the return desired for their investment? It looks like the first dividend Walker wants to pay, through the help of the Koch-subsidized cheerleaders from Americans for Prosperity, is a death knell for unions and the rights of workers to organize. But tens of thousands of Wisconsin citizens have stood up this week to say this ROI will not be paid, that their rights will not be the price Walker exacts from them in return for the largess the Kochs have shown him as the anointed instrument of their agenda in this state.
(click here to continue reading A CMD Special Report: Scott Walker Runs on Koch Money | Center for Media and Democracy.)
The Koch kisser Scott Walker has yet another problem brewing:
[Scott Walker’s brinksmanship] could be forfeiting millions in transportation funding from the federal government if his anti-union legislation is signed into law.
Under an obscure provision of federal labor law, states risk losing federal funds should they eliminate “collective bargaining rights” that existed at the time when federal assistance was first granted. The provision, known as “protective arrangements” or “Section 13C arrangements,” is meant as a means of cushioning union (and even some non-union) members who, while working on local projects, are affected by federal grants.
It also could potentially hamstring governors like Walker who want dramatic changes to labor laws in their states. Wisconsin received $74 million in federal transit funds this fiscal year. Of that, $46.6 million would be put at risk should the collective-bargaining bill come to pass — in the process creating an even more difficult fiscal situation than the one that, ostensibly, compelled Walker to push the legislation in the first place.
He probably figures the jobs lost would be union jobs, so what the hell. Half a billion dollars and a crippled state economy are nothing if he can crush labor
(click here to continue reading Daily Kos: Walker informed Wisconsin could lose $46 million in federal funds with anti-union bill.)
and if you hadn’t heard, Ian Murphy of a Buffalo alt-weekly, Buffalo Beast, held a 20 minute prank call with Walker by posing as a member of the Kochtopus:
Ian Murphy, editor of the Buffalo Beast, just did something wonderful. Murphy, pretending to be billionaire industrialist and secretive conservative political activist David Koch, called Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, currently in the midst of attempting to crush the public employees’ unions. “Koch” got through to Walker (who hasn’t been taking calls from the Democratic state Senate minority leader). He taped the call and put it online.
So Walker will happily take a call from a Koch brother. He says that he considered “planting some troublemakers” among the protesters. He is convinced that everyone is on his side. Like most people who only watch Fox, he has a skewed impression of the popularity of his union-crushing proposals. (His plan is, nationally, roundly unpopular. Except on Fox.)
…Walker does reveal that he is planning to trick the Democrats into coming back into town for a “talk,” despite his lack of interest in compromising anything. He will ask them to open a session in the Assembly, and then take a recess for this talk. At that point, the Senate Republicans would hold the vote on the bill while Walker distracts the Democrats with this entirely pointless discussion:
They can recess it … the reason for that, we’re verifying it this afternoon, legally, we believe, once they’ve gone into session, they don’t physically have to be there. If they’re actually in session for that day, and they take a recess, the 19 Senate Republicans could then go into action and they’d have quorum because it’s turned out that way. So we’re double checking that. If you heard I was going to talk to them that’s the only reason why. We’d only do it if they came back to the capitol with all 14 of them. My sense is, hell. I’ll talk. If they want to yell at me for an hour, I’m used to that. I can deal with that. But I’m not negotiating.
(click here to continue reading Fake “Koch brother” calls up Wisconsin governor – War Room – Salon.com.)
The bill that has inspired the demonstrations would strip away collective bargaining rights for many of the state’s workers, in effect busting public-employee unions. Tellingly, some workers — namely, those who tend to be Republican-leaning — are exempted from the ban; it’s as if Mr. Walker were flaunting the political nature of his actions.
Why bust the unions? As I said, it has nothing to do with helping Wisconsin deal with its current fiscal crisis. Nor is it likely to help the state’s budget prospects even in the long run: contrary to what you may have heard, public-sector workers in Wisconsin and elsewhere are paid somewhat less than private-sector workers with comparable qualifications, so there’s not much room for further pay squeezes.
So it’s not about the budget; it’s about the power.
In principle, every American citizen has an equal say in our political process. In practice, of course, some of us are more equal than others. Billionaires can field armies of lobbyists; they can finance think tanks that put the desired spin on policy issues; they can funnel cash to politicians with sympathetic views (as the Koch brothers did in the case of Mr. Walker). On paper, we’re a one-person-one-vote nation; in reality, we’re more than a bit of an oligarchy, in which a handful of wealthy people dominate.
Given this reality, it’s important to have institutions that can act as counterweights to the power of big money. And unions are among the most important of these institutions.
You don’t have to love unions, you don’t have to believe that their policy positions are always right, to recognize that they’re among the few influential players in our political system representing the interests of middle- and working-class Americans, as opposed to the wealthy. Indeed, if America has become more oligarchic and less democratic over the last 30 years — which it has — that’s to an important extent due to the decline of private-sector unions.
And now Mr. Walker and his backers are trying to get rid of public-sector unions, too.
There’s a bitter irony here. The fiscal crisis in Wisconsin, as in other states, was largely caused by the increasing power of America’s oligarchy. After all, it was superwealthy players, not the general public, who pushed for financial deregulation and thereby set the stage for the economic crisis of 2008-9, a crisis whose aftermath is the main reason for the current budget crunch. And now the political right is trying to exploit that very crisis, using it to remove one of the few remaining checks on oligarchic influence.
So will the attack on unions succeed? I don’t know. But anyone who cares about retaining government of the people by the people should hope that it doesn’t.
(click here to continue reading Wisconsin Power Play – NYTimes.com.)
Add this to the list of things I’m disappointed in Obama for: he should be more involved in this fight, lending his voice and power to help the unions.
Turns out the Koch brothers are knee deep in Scott Walker’s campaign to crush unions in WIsconsin.
According to Wisconsin campaign finance filings, Walker’s gubernatorial campaign received $43,000 from the Koch Industries PAC during the 2010 election. That donation was his campaign’s second-highest, behind $43,125 in contributions from housing and realtor groups in Wisconsin. The Koch’s PAC also helped Walker via a familiar and much-used politicial maneuver designed to allow donors to skirt campaign finance limits. The PAC gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Association, which in turn spent $65,000 on independent expenditures to support Walker. The RGA also spent a whopping $3.4 million on TV ads and mailers attacking Walker’s opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. Walker ended up beating Barrett by 5 points.
The Koch money, no doubt, helped greatly. The Kochs also assisted Walker’s current GOP allies in the fight against the public-sector unions. Last year, Republicans took control of the both houses of the Wisconsin state legislature, which has made Walker’s assault on these unions possible. And according to data from the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, the Koch Industries PAC spent $6,500 in support of 16 Wisconsin Republican state legislative candidates, who each won his or her election.
Walker’s plan to eviscerate collective bargaining rights for public employees is right out of the Koch brothers’ playbook. Koch-backed groups like Americans for Prosperity, the Cato Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the Reason Foundation have long taken a very antagonistic view toward public-sector unions. Several of these groups have urged the eradication of these unions. In Wisconsin, this conservative, anti-union view is being placed into action by lawmakers in sync with the deep-pocketed donors who helped them obtain power. (Walker also opposes the state’s Clean Energy Job Act, which would compel the state to increase its use of alternative energy.) At this moment—even with the Wisconsin uprising unresolved—the Koch brothers’ investment in Walker appears to be paying off.
(click here to continue reading Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker: Funded by the Koch Bros. | Mother Jones.)
Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity, told counterprotesters in what was otherwise a largely union crowd that the cuts were not only necessary, but they also represented the start of a much-needed nationwide move to slash public-sector union benefits. “We are going to bring fiscal sanity back to this great nation,” he said.
What Mr. Phillips did not mention was that his Virginia-based nonprofit group, whose budget surged to $40 million in 2010 from $7 million three years ago, was created and financed in part by the secretive billionaire brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch.
State records also show that Koch Industries, their energy and consumer products conglomerate based in Wichita, Kan., was one of the biggest contributors to the election campaign of Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, a Republican who has championed the proposed cuts. Even before the new governor was sworn in last month, executives from the Koch-backed group had worked behind the scenes to try to encourage a union showdown, Mr. Phillips said in an interview on Monday.
(click here to continue reading Koch Brothers’ Money Fuels Wisconsin Fight – NYTimes.com.)
A Teabagger lying? How unusual! Scott Walker is a stain.
Wisconsin’s new Republican governor has framed his assault on public worker’s collective bargaining rights as a needed measure of fiscal austerity during tough times.
The reality is radically different. Unlike true austerity measures — service rollbacks, furloughs, and other temporary measures that cause pain but save money — rolling back worker’s bargaining rights by itself saves almost nothing on its own. But Walker’s doing it anyhow, to knock down a barrier and allow him to cut state employee benefits immediately. Mad In Madison: Wisconsin Workers Protest Against Governor’s Budget Proposals
Furthermore, this broadside comes less than a month after the state’s fiscal bureau — the Wisconsin equivalent of the Congressional Budget Office — concluded that Wisconsin isn’t even in need of austerity measures, and could conclude the fiscal year with a surplus. In fact, they say that the current budget shortfall is a direct result of tax cut policies Walker enacted in his first days in office.
(click here to continue reading Wisconsin Gov. Walker Ginned Up Budget Shortfall To Undercut Worker Rights | TPMDC.)
Unfortunately, Walker has a political agenda that relies on the fantasy that Wisconsin is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. Walker is not interested in balanced budgets, efficient government or meaningful job creation. Walker is interested in gaming the system to benefit his political allies and campaign contributors.
To achieve that end, he has proposed a $137 million budget “repair” bill that he intends to use as a vehicle to:
1. Undermine the long-established collective bargaining rights of public employee unions, which have for 80 years been the strongest advocates for programs that serve the great mass of Wisconsinites, as opposed to wealthy elites and corporate special interests.
As Racine’s Democratic state Rep. Cory Mason says, the governor’s bill is designed not with the purpose of getting the state’s finances in order but as “an assault on Wisconsin’s working families and political payback against unions who didn’t support Gov. Walker.”
2. Pay for schemes that redirect state tax dollars to wealthy individuals and corporate interests that have been sources of campaign funding for Walker’s fellow Republicans and special-interest campaigns on their behalf.
As Madison’s Democratic state Rep. Brett Hulsey notes, the governor and legislators aligned with him have over the past month given away special-interest favors to every lobby group that came asking, creating zero jobs in the process “but increasing the deficit by more than $100 million.” Actually, Hulsey’s being conservative in his estimate of how much money Walker and his allies have misappropriated for political purposes.
(click here to continue reading Walker gins up ‘crisis’ to reward cronies.)
There’s a PDF here that was written by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, explaining in detail these misappropriations. Or as the authors put it:
Annually, this office prepares general fund revenue and expenditure projections for the Legislature prior to commencement of legislative deliberations on the state’s budget.
In the odd-numbered years, our report includes estimated revenues and expenditures for the current fiscal year and tax collection projections for each year of the next biennium. This report presents the conclusions of our analysis.
Athanae over at First Draft brings up an interesting point in the Teabagger Governors Against Unions battle that is currently raging in Wisconsin, and elsewhere. The unions are one of the Democrats biggest backers, spending lots of money in each election cycle. If the Rethuglicans smash the unions, who is going to step into that breach?
Feingold was on Maddow tonight and they both talked about something Susie’s been pushing on Twitter, which is that given the Citizens United decision, if you defund unions across the country the only moneyed players in politics anymore will be corporations. So this isn’t about the budget. This is about politics, and it’s about the long game, and they’re playing for keeps.
Luckily, so are the protesters. Madison schools are closed tomorrow, too, because teachers aren’t having it, so the protest — 30K by Maddow’s count, 13K by others’ — will get even bigger. Now that the story’s in the NYT, I imagine the rest of the national press/blogs will be reassured that this isn’t just the usual spectacle of unwashed hippies protesting the lack of free pot, and will feel secure in devoting some of their ink and their emotions to it. They pretty much ignored the fuck out of it until this afternoon, when the noise got too loud to ignore anymore.
(click here to continue reading New York Times Parrots Walker Line That Union-Busting is Budget Related – First Draft.)
On an unrelated note, why isn’t Russ Feingold running for president?
Aware that there would be a loud outcry if he proposed legislation to strip public workers of their collective bargaining rights, Walker inserted a provision in his budget stripping workers of their right to bargain. By including it in the budget, he bypassed all hearings or opportunity for public comment, and is pushing the Wisconsin legislature to vote on it as early as next week.
Under Walker’s immediate plan, all collective bargaining rights would be removed for state and local public employees starting July 1, except when it comes to wages. But any salary increase they seek could be no more than the consumer price index, unless voters in the affected jurisdiction approved a higher raise.
Contracts would be limited to one year and wages would be frozen until the next contract is settled. Public employers would be prohibited from collecting union dues and members of collective bargaining units would not be required to pay dues.
The proposal would effectively remove unions’ right to negotiate in any meaningful way. Local law enforcement and fire employees, as well as state troopers and inspectors would be exempt.
Walker’s plan also calls for state employees to contribute 5.8 percent of their salaries to their pensions starting April 1. They would have to contribute at least 12.6 percent toward their health care. Those two items would generate $30 million by July 1 and roughly $300 million over the next two years when combined with the other concessions.
Walker insisted he was not targeting public employees and that his primary concern was balancing the budget. His bill also calls for selling off state heating plants to save money and refinancing state debt to save $165 million in the fiscal year that ends June 30.
As you might imagine, an action like this might trigger a strike, or at least, the threat of one. No worries, because Walker is ready to call out the National Guard if such a thing happens.
Gov. Scott Walker says the Wisconsin National Guard is prepared to respond if there is any unrest among state employees in the wake of his announcement that he wants to take away nearly all collective bargaining rights.
Walker said Friday that he hasn’t called the Guard into action, but he has briefed them and other state agencies in preparation of any problems.
Walker says he has every confidence that state employees will continue to show up for work and do their jobs. But he says he’s been working on contingency plans for months just in case they don’t.
(click here to continue reading Dictatorship in Wisconsin? | Crooks and Liars.)
Call out the National Guard? Really? And what exactly is the Wisconsin National Guard going to do? Teach high school chemistry? Change bed pans in the local hospital?
Statement on Governor Walker’s Request to Eliminate Collective-Bargaining Rights February 11, 2011
“Governor Walker’s request to the State Legislature to eliminate nearly all of the collective-bargaining rights for thousands of Wisconsin workers is big government at its worst. No private employer can do what the governor proposes, nor should it. For decades, Wisconsin has protected the rights of workers to collectively bargain with their employer on wages, benefits, workplace rules, and many other aspects of their employment. The governor is wrong to suggest that public workers are responsible for the state’s budget woes, and he is wrong to use that bogus excuse to strip them of rights that millions of other American workers have.”
(click here to continue reading Statement on Governor Walker’s Request to Eliminate Collective-Bargaining Rights | Russ Feingold.)
Amazing. I secretly hope he, and other reactionaries like him in the US Congress and elsewhere, follow through on their plans to destroy the U.S. economy by gutting each and every domestic program. Maybe then people will realize who they are supporting when they vote Republican, and even more, maybe the vast majority who ignore politics will get woken up. What percentage of eligible voters cast their ballots for these tea-bagger thugs in 2010? 20%? 25%? Something like that. The other 75% of us have to do more if we have any hope of avoiding turning our country into Somalia or similar third world country.
We already ridiculed Scott Walker for his fundamental misunderstanding of complex mathematical concepts like percentages, and addition/subtraction, but James Warren of the New York Times adds:
As with family feuds, this ruckus has a history. It includes Mr. Quinn’s urging a Milwaukee train manufacturer to move to Illinois if Mr. Walker fulfills his promise to spurn $800 million in federal stimulus money and ditch a high-speed rail line linking Madison and Milwaukee.
The Illinois Senate president, John J. Cullerton, quickly obliged my request for relevant data. Even with the huge, “temporary” increases in Illinois, individuals and corporations are better off here than in Wisconsin — and in decent shape compared with Indiana, Missouri, Minnesota and Michigan, too.
According to the Tax Foundation, the Illinois personal rate of 5 percent compared with a sliding scale of 4.6 percent to 7.75 percent in Wisconsin, with anybody there earning $10,000 or above taxed at a minimum of 5 percent. The new Illinois corporate rate of 7 percent compares with Wisconsin’s 7.9 percent.
Mr. Walker doesn’t deny this but says he’ll get his rates down by 2015. Perhaps. But his rabble-rousing remains short on nuance.
As Chicago’s Metropolitan Planning Council underscored, taxes are important, but keeping an area competitive also involves quality of life, overall fiscal health, specific business incentives and intangibles like leadership. Quality of life includes the culture, restaurants and recreation that lure bright young people to Chicago.
(click to continue reading Wisconsin Sounds Off, but Misses the Point – NYTimes.com.)
If you are dumb enough to get your news solely from Fox News, and believe that impending tax increases in Illinois necessitate your move to Wisconsin, please, be my guest. And leave quickly so that the IL state’s IQ levels can increase at the same time that WI’s IQ levels decrease.
Wisconsin’s new Republican Governor Scott Walker has rushed to make hay out of the Illinois Assembly’s decision to raise individual and corporate tax rates, urging Illinois residents and businesses to move to Wisconsin. But, ironically, Illinois residents who move to Wisconsin should bank on paying higher taxes.
Conservatives like Walker have insisted on using the figure that Illinois is increasing taxes by a whopping 66 percent. While this is factually accurate, it’s misleading as it makes the tax increase seem much bigger than it actually is. Illinois tax rates will only go from 3 to 5 percent (hence 66 percent increase), representing a total increase in tax rates of just 2 percent. This will allow Illinois to solve a massive $15 billion budget deficit without gutting state programs. But even with this increase, tax rates for individuals will still be lower than in Wisconsin. Wisconsin has different tax brackets; the lowest income rate if you make over $11,000 is 6.15 percent. The highest rate is 7.75 percent.
Bloomberg noted this yesterday: Absent from Walker’s sales pitch was the fact that Wisconsin’s top income tax rates remain higher than Illinois even under the increase … Walker hasn’t yet proposed lowering the state’s income or corporate tax rates. But this didn’t stop Fox New host Neil Cavuto yesterday from insisting that Illinois is experiencing a “tax storm.”